Do you remember when Superbad hit it big and its director (Greg Mottola) essentially got the shaft at every turn, what with Apatowamania hitting its stride at the time? The same could be said for Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller, to some extent. But at least those films were produced by Judd Apatow – he’s nowhere to be found in the credits for I Love You, Man, but it still "has his footprint" or is "shaped by his influence" or whatever phrase people are using to indicate that I♥YM wouldn’t exist without him. Fact is, it was written and directed by John Hamburg (who, um, did happen to direct a few episodes of Apatow’s failed TV series Undeclared some years back; of course, there HAD to be a connection, but it’s pretty indirect as it relates to this film). And fact is, perhaps it’s not Apatow to whom Hamburg did the majority of his copping from, but Chuck Palahniuk and/or David Fincher. That’s right – I Love You, Man could alternately be titled Fight Club: The Romantic Comedy. It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. I♥YM is the story of Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), a real estate drone who thinks he has all his sh*t together; a nice, modern house, a high-paying, if unsatisfying job, a beautiful girlfriend, all the material goods that your stereotypical yuppie might yearn for. It isn’t until after he proposes to the love of his life, Zooey (Rashida Jones) that this mama’s boy realizes that he’s missing a key element – a best man, or for that matter, any male that he can count as a BFF. Hell, even his own father doesn’t count him as a friend; instead, Pops counts his gay younger brother (Andy Samberg, excellently unannoying) as one of his best pals. After hearing his fiancee and her gal pals trashing him and his friendless nature, Peter sets about to find his soul mate. A number of (enjoyable) montages later, he bumps into Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) – the Tyler Durden to his Jack’s lack of friends. On the surface, Sydney’s a slacker – he’s into "investments," but we never really find out what he does. He lives near the Venice Beach with his lovable Puggle (which leads to a funny gag involving the dog’s namesake) in a somewhat run-down house, spending most of his time in his "Man Cave" – playing guitar, watching TV, jacking for beats. He’s an unabashed "Man’s Man," going so far as to tell every attractive woman he meets that they share the same name as his mother in an attempt at wooing them. He’s quirky, he dresses funny, he says whatever is on his mind and he doesn’t care if you like it or not. Hell, he even picks fights with relative strangers – the only thing the guy’s missing is a job as a film projectionist and a penchant for chaos. All jokes aside, I Love You, Man is an enjoyable if unspectacular comedy. It’s mostly predictable, features a lot of obvious jokes, and features the impossible-to-hate Rudd in a role that brings to mind Larry David’s "character" on Curb Your Enthusiasm – he’s not unlikable, but he sure is awkward and hard to watch sometimes. On multiple occasions, I just wanted to slap him, and if the intention was for us to sympathize with him unilaterally, the filmmakers failed. The fact that we don’t end up resenting him completely is a credit to Rudd’s affability; however, even he can’t overcome Segel’s Sydney – like James Franco in Pineapple Express, his charm is relentless, his charisma unmatched. If only we all had friends like him, we’d never feel the need to fight in the first place.
Filed under: Opinion